NETWORKS OUTFOXED BY IDOL, 5TH GRADER

Three episodes of American Idol followed by three episodes of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? topped the Nielsen ratings list last week, leaving everything else in the dust. Ratings for 5th Grader marked Fox's biggest ever for a series premiere and the biggest for any network in eight years. The shows also gave Fox an easy victory for the week as it registered an average 8.9 rating and a 14 share in primetime. CBS placed second with an average 7.5/12, followed by NBC and ABC, which tied for third with a 5.3/9.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 17.5/28; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 17.1/25; 3. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 15.5/23; 4. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (Tuesday), Fox, 14.6/22; 5. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (Wednesday), Fox, 13.4/20; 6. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (Thursday), Fox, 12.9/19; 7. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 11.7/18; 8. CSI: Miami, CBS, 11.1/17; 9. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 10.6/16; 10. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.4/15,

IDOL SET TO WIN AGAIN

Despite widespread critical flak over the talent -- or lack thereof -- of the principal male contestants on Fox's American Idol, Tuesday night's show continued to draw blockbuster ratings. Its 16.4 rating and 25 share was greater than the ratings of the other three major networks combined. So was the 15.2/23 for House, which followed Idol. Nevertheless, the numbers for Idol fell below those for the previous two weeks, when they averaged a 17.2/26.

INCOME GAP DIVIDES VIEWERS

Rich folks don't watch the same shows as other folks, ad agency Magna Global has concluded after analyzing data from Nielsen Research. For example, it discovered that several of the top shows among affluent viewers don't even make the top 80 among general households. ABC attracted the wealthiest viewers, with a median income of $64,000 (that is, half its viewers earn more than $64,000 per year); NBC came in second with $60,000; CBS was close behind with $59,000, while Fox's viewers had a median income of $53,000.

COURIC DISMISSES FALLING RATINGS

Katie Couric once again insisted that she has "never really obsessed over ratings" and that her primary goal as the anchor of the CBS Evening News is "to turn out a quality newscast." Couric's comments came following the latest ratings figures indicating that her news program now attracts 7,510,000 viewers, up from last week's 6,915,000 and slightly below the average 7,570,000 when it was anchored by Bob Schieffer last year.

CBS EXPANDING INTERNET NCAA BASKETBALL OFFERINGS

CBS's broadband package of out-of-market games for "March Madness" -- the NCAA's men's basketball tournament -- is expected to earn twice the amount of ad dollars this year than it did last, CBS Sports president Sean McManus told Reuters on Tuesday. The wire service reported that CBS plans to double the bandwidth capacity and provide a video screen that is double the size it was last year. Coverage begins at 12:00 noon EDT Thursday, March 15.

CORRECTION:

An item concerning allegations that U.S. troops confiscated footage and film from TV and still photographers in Afghanistan that appeared in Studio Briefing Tuesday bore an incorrect headline. As the story indicated, the incident took place in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

Brian B.